Golestan Palace Complex
Golestan Palace pronounced “Kakheh Golestan” is the former royal Qajar complex in Iran’s capital city.
The Palace is all that remains of Tehran’s Historical Citadel (Arg) which once glittered like a jewel. This historical Arg was built at the time of Shah Tahmasb I in Safavid period. It was reconstructed at the time of Karim Khan Zand and was chosen as the venue of the royal court and residence at the time of Qajar Kings. Nassereddin Shah introduced many modifications in Golestan Palace buildings during his reign.
The Royal Court and Residence occupied more than one-third of Arg, like traditional Iranian houses, had two interior and exterior quarters. The exterior quarters consisted of the administrative section of the royal court and a square shaped garden known as Golestan (rose garden). These two parts were separated by several buildings, that were destroyed in Pahlavi period.
The interior quarters were located east of the administrative section to the north of Golestan. It was a large courtyard including the residences of the Shah’s women, with a huge dormitory in the middle that in fact contained “Harem sari “. These buildings were destroyed in the Pahlavi period and the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Finance was built in their place.
During the Pahlavi era (1925-1979) Golestan Palace was used for formal royal receptions and the Pahlavi dynasty built their own palace at Niavaran. The most important ceremonies held in the Palace during the Pahlavi era were the coronation of Reza Khan (r. 1925-1941) in Takht-i Marmar and the coronation of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi (r. 1941-deposed 1979) in the Museum Hall.
In between 1925 and 1945 a large portion of the buildings of the palace was destroyed on the orders of Reza Shah who believed that the centuries-old Qajar palace should not hinder the growth of a modern city. In the place of the old buildings modern 1950s and 1960s style, commercial buildings were erected.
In its present state, Golestan Palace is the result of roughly 400 years construction and renovations. The buildings at the contemporary location each have a unique history.
On October 11, 2005, the Cultural Heritage Organization of Iran submitted the palace to the UNESCO for inclusion into the World Heritage List in 2007.
Golestan Palace is currently operated by the Cultural Heritage Organization of Iran.
The Golestan Palace complex is bordered on the north by the Ministries of Finance and Justice, on the east by Naser Khosrow St, on the west by Davar Street, and along its southern edge, it is one block from Panzdah-e Khordad Ave. The complex is located at the heart of old Tehran, which itself is framed by Shahr Park on its northwest, Pamenar Street on its east side, and the Tehran bazaar to the southwest.
The complex, in its current condition, consists of two connected gardens, a smaller one on the west and a larger one on the east, and the buildings that surround them. The smaller garden on the west, referred to here as the Takht-i Marmar garden, is oriented along a north-south axis, with a small degree of rotation along the northeast-southwest axis. A water channel runs down the garden’s central axis. The larger garden here called the Golestan garden, is roughly square in plan (it is slightly longer along its east-west axis) and with a small degree of rotation to northwest-southeast. It features a water channel that runs north-south along its western side, near its border with the Takht-i Marmar garden.
The main access to the complex is from Panzdah Khordad Square on the southwest corner. Here, one enters the Takht-i Marmar garden on its south side, and immediately views an elongated pool running on the main axis of the small garden to the north, terminating in a pool in front of the Imarat-i Takht-i Marmar. This building is located along the north side of the small garden and spans the garden from northwest to northeast. On its west side, the Takht-i Marmar garden is separated from Davar Street by a wall. Along with its east side, this garden is open to the Golestan garden and on its southeast corner, the Kakh-i Ab’yaz is situated.
Moving to the Golestan garden, facing northwest and then turning clockwise (from west to east), one sees the Khalvat-i Karim Khani where the two gardens meet. This palace shares its west wall with the Imarat-i Takht-i Marmar. Facing north and moving east from the Khalvat-i Karim Khani is a series of buildings: the Talar-i Salam, the Mouse-i Makhsous, the Talar-i Ayeneh, the Talar-i Aaj, and the Imarat-i Brelian. An elongated pool runs north-south in front of the Talar-i Ayeneh. Looking east, one sees a wall with arched niches decorated with polychrome tiles. This wall leads to the Shams al-Imarat, located in the southern part of the east wall of the Golestan garden. Facing south, one sees the Imarat-i Badger at the southeast corner of the Golestan garden. The Chador Khaneh and the Talar-i Almas are located west of the Imarat-i Badger on the south side of the Golestan garden. The garden wall makes up the remainder of the southern side. Turning further clockwise to face west and southwest, one sees the east elevation of the Kakh-i Ab’yaz, which is oriented along a north-south axis.
The construction and development of the Golestan Palace complex date back five centuries, concurrent with the growth and expansion of Tehran as Iran’s capital. The building complex has been built and modified during four different dynasties: Safavid, Zand, Qajar, and Pahlavi.
The small city of Tehran became, for the first time, one of the residences of the Safavid rulers in the mid-sixteenth century. The first defensive city wall around Tehran was constructed under Shah Tahmasb (reg. 1524-1576) in the 1550s. Known as the “Hisar-i Tahmasebi,” this wall encircled the royal citadel (Arg) situated on its north side. The Arg (measuring 500 by 800 meters) consisted of a small palace and audience chamber. These structures, which are no longer extant, formed the foundation of today’s Golestan palace.
The earliest extant structures in the complex are from the Zand dynasty (1750-1794). Karim Khan-i Zand (reg. 1750-1779) intended to make Tehran his capital. To this end, in 1760 he commissioned the architect Ustad Ghulam Reza TTabrizi to renovate the Hisar-i Tahmasebi and add new buildings: an audience chamber known as the Divan Khana (today’s Imarat-i Takht-i Marmar), and the Khalvat-i Karim Khani.
The Qajar dynasty came into power, in 1779, with Aqa Mohammad Khan (reg. 1794-1797), who chose Tehran as his capital in 1785. He selected the Golestan complex as his palace and administrative center. Aqa Mohammad Khan took over some parts of the estate in the Arg, enlarging the Golestan garden, and built a palace on the east-west axis of today’s Golestan garden. Called Qasr-i Golestan, this palace is no longer in existence. Following his assassination in 1797, most of Aga Mohammed Khan’s construction projects remained incomplete.
Aafter the death of Aqa Mohammad Khan, Fath Ali Shah (reg. 1797-1834) took power, becoming the first king to implement many major development projects in Tehran. At the Golestan Palace, he initiated new building projects in addition to completing some of Aqa Mohammad Khan’s projects; the Qasr-i Golestan was finished in 1801. At the same time, two other buildings were constructed on the north-south axis of the current Golestan garden: the Imarat-i Bolour on the north side of the garden and the Talar-i Almas on the south. Of the two, only the Talar-i Almas remains. The Imarat-i Badger was Fath Ali Shah’s last addition to the Golestan complex in 1813.
Naser al-Din Shah (reg. 1848-1896), Fath Ali Shah’s grandson, was crowned in the Imarat-i Takht-i Marmar in 1848. During the fifty years of his reign, the Golestan Palace, his winter residence, and center of government underwent major changes. Naser al-Din Shah’s projects for the palace can be grouped into five phases: (a) 1853-1885, (b) 1858-1868, (c) 1868-1878, (d) 1878-1882, (e) 1882- 1895.
Modifications over coarse of time
1853 – 1858
Within the first phase, Naser al-Din Shah’s prime minister, Amir Kabir, bought the land on the east side of the garden, adding it to the Golestan complex. The first addition to the Golestan was a museum for royal weapons, located on the eastern side of the Qasr-i Golestan. At the time, the elongated east-west complex of Qasr-i Golestan, the new museum, and some other buildings to its west was collectively known as the Imarat-i Khorouji. During the same period, major reconstructions were performed on the Imarat-i Badger (1853).
1858 – 1868
In the second phase, Tehran was expanded and reconstructed by Naser al-Din Shah. He made a new defensive wall with twelve entrance gates around the city, Hisar-i Naseri, increasing the size of the city fourfold (1867). Inside the borders of this new wall, the Arg was located within the central area. The major construction work of this phase in the Golestan Palace was the construction of the Shams al-Imarat on the southeast corner of the Golestan garden. This five-story building with two flanking turrets was completed in 1867. Shortly after, the mandarin (women’s quarters) was built on the north side of the Imarat-i Takht-i Marmar, and the Talar-i Aaj was constructed on the west side of the Imarat-i Bolour.
The Tekie-i Dowlat, a theatrical building for religious shows and ceremonies, was constructed south of Talar-i Almas between 1868 and 1873. It was the largest building built by Naser al-Din Shah in the Golestan complex. Some necessary modifications were performed on the east and south buildings of the Golestan garden in order to connect them to the Tekie-i Dowlat.
After traveling twice to Europe between 1873 and 1882, Naser al-Din Shah was greatly influenced by 19th-century neoclassicism. In 1873, he initiated the construction of a series of buildings with a continuous two-story façade on the north side of the Golestan garden and the west side of the Talar-i Aaj. These constructions resulted in the demolition of a significant portion of the Khalvat-i Karim Khani. This new complex included the main audience hall, or Talar-i Ayeneh, a museum building, and other adjoining smaller halls. The Talar-i Mouze later was renamed the Talar-i Salam, was the first building to be in Iran to be designed as a museum. It held Naser al-Dim Shah’s collection of antiquities, as well as gifts made to the sovereign.
In 1878, the Imarat-i Khorouji, including Fath Ali Shah’s Qasr-i Golestan, was demolished and replaced by pools, grass plots, flowers, and trees.
The Imarat-i Khabgah was erected in 1885 on the north of the Golestan complex to the west of the andarun. In 1887, Fath Ali Shah’s Imarat-i Bolour was demolished, with the exception of its basement. In its stead, the current Imarat-i Brelian, with its decorated halls and rooms, was erected. The last building added to the Golestan was the Kakh-i Ab’yaz in 1891. Unlike the other buildings in the complex, this two-story rectangular building is utterly European and neoclassical, with no trace of Islamic forms or ornament. This building, located in the southwest corner of the Golestan garden, currently holds the Ethnographical Museum of Tehran. The west elevation of this building was changed during the reign of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi.
Under Pahlavi rule, the Arg of Tehran and the Golestan complex underwent changes. Although both Reza Shah (reg. 1925-1941) and his son Mohammad Reza Shah (reg. 1941-1979) were crowned in the Golestan Palace, Reza Shah moved his base to the Sad Abad Palace complex in the north of Tehran, and the Golestan Palace was used to host important foreign guests. During his reign, approximately three-quarters of the Golestan Palace complex was demolished to make space for modern office buildings. Of the Golestan complex, only the Imarat-i Takht-i Marmar, the audience halls, the Shams al-Imarat, the Imarat-i Badgir, the Kakh-i Abyaz, and the Talar-i Aaj survived. On the south side of the complex, the Tekie-i Dowlat was demolished in 1946. The Bazaar branch of Melli Bank was erected on its site. On the north side of the complex, the andarun and the Imarat-i Khabgah were demolished in the early 1960s; the Ministries of Finance and Justice were subsequently built there. A series of guardhouses and stables located west of the Imarat-i Takht-i Marmar were all were knocked down. Na’yeb al-Saltana Street, currently known as Davar Street, formerly contained within the complex, is now a public street bordering the west side of the Golestan Palace.
Halls and Buildings
In its present form, it comprises several different buildings and halls, including the following: the Imarat-i Takht-i Marmar, (also called the Marble Throne Building, Iwan-i Takht-i Marmar, or Iwan-i Marmar, 1759), the Khalvat-i Karim Khani (Karim Khani Palace, 1759), the Talar-i Almas (Diamond Hall, 1801), the Imarat-i Badgir (Wind-Tower Building, 1813), the Talar-i Aaj (Hall of Ivory, 1863), the Shams al-Imarat (Shams-ol Emareh, or Sun Building, 1866), the Talar-i Salam (Reception Hall, 1874), the Mouze-i Makhsous (Special Museum, 1874), the Talar-i Ayeneh (Hall of Mirrors, 1874), the Imarat-i Brelian (Talar-i Brelian, or Hall of Brilliant Diamonds, 1874), the Kakh-i Ab’yaz (White Palace, 1890), and the Chador Khaneh (Tent House).
Marble Throne Building (Imarat-i Takht-i Marmar)
Marble Throne Building or Dar-ul-Hokumeh was used for Shah’s formal receptions, while Golestan Palace was used as the royal court’s interior quarters for private meetings and nocturnal feasts.
The square-shaped Golestan, surrounded by various buildings and halls, was divided into two parts with the construction of a long bifurcated building known as the exterior building at the time of Fath Ali Shah. This building, constructed on an East-West axis, was destroyed at the time Nassereddin Shah and the garden regained its integrity.
At first there were two large pools, one in front of Shams al-Imarat and Wind Tower Buildings and another in front of the Mirror Hall. Two pools were connected to each other by a long duct, along with the exterior building.
The sensitivity of Iranian artists, aided by the skills of architecture, painting, stone carving, tile working, stucco, mirror work, enameling, wood working, and lattice work has created unforgettable masterpieces in the buildings among the old royal palaces.
Shah received people from various walks of life during official ceremonies on this throne veranda. In 1806, Fath Ali Shah ordered stone cravers from Isfahan to make a throne from the famous marble of Yazd. It was placed in the middle of the Iwan. It appears that Iwan, older than the other parts of Historical Arg, is a Zand period monument, built during the reign of Karim Khan.
The architecture and ornaments of this veranda were further modified during the reigns of Fath Ali Shah and Nassereddin Shah. The coronation of the Qajar kings, as well as various other official ceremonies, was performed from this Iwan. The last of these ceremonies was the Coronation of Reza Khan in 1925.
The first foundation of the Imarat-i Takht-i Marmar was laid by Karim Khan-i Zand in 1759. During the Qajar period, this building, which was also referred to as the Divan Khana and the Dar al-Hokouma, became the administrative center of the royal government. The Imarat-i Takht-i Marmar was used in royal ceremonies in celebrations such as Eids and Norouz, and the issuance of the king’s decrees, as well as for receiving foreign ambassadors.
This two-story building is pierced by a splendid talar flanked by two side chambers. The talar faces the garden and is supported by two twisted marble columns with muqarnas capitals. These eight-meter tall columns were reputedly taken by Aqa Mohammad Khan in 1771 from Karim Khan-i Zand’s Qasr-i Vakil in Shiraz. Other parts of this building, such as its carved yellow marble dados decorated with flowers, parrots, and eagles, reportedly have the same origin. The side chambers of the talar, which have mezzanine levels, are open to both the garden and the talar.
Within the building, two stories of rooms wrap the talar; an iwan niche is found in the center of the rear wall of the building. The walls and ceiling of the talar are decorated with mirror-work mosaics, colored glass lattice windows, marble carvings, and oil paintings of Fath Ali Shah, princes, foreign ambassadors, and war scenes. Under Naser al-Din Shah, some alterations were made to the decoration of the talar’s windows and to its mirror work; in addition, the façade of the two wings flanking the talar were covered with polychrome tilework.
The talar of the Imarat-i Takht-i Marmar houses the royal throne. This marble throne (Takht-i Marmar) was built in 1806 by the order of Fath Ali Shah to replace the valuable Takht-i Tavous (Peacock Throne) in the talar. The marble throne, designed by the royal painter Mirza Baba Shirazi and built by the royal mason Mohammad Ebrahim Esfehani, is composed of sixty-five fine pieces of yellow marble from the province of Yazd. The body of the throne is carried on the shoulders of angels and demons carved in stone, and its steps are decorated with dragons and two lions.
Hall of Mirrors (Talar-i Ayeneh)
Hall of Mirrors is located west of the Reception Hall and over the frontispiece and stone Iwan in front of the lobby of the palace. It is one of the most famous halls of Golestan Palace. It was built simultaneously with Reception Hall between 1874 and 1877. This hall was dedicated to the Peacock Throne and the Kianid Crown when the objects in the old museum were taken to the new museum, and owes much of its fame to its ornamentation and even to the portrayal of it in a painting created by Mirza Mohammad Khan Kamalolmolk in 1891. The painting is now on display the Golestan Palace.
Hall of Ivory (Talar-i Aaj)
Hall of Ivory is located west of Brilliant Hall beyond Mirror Hall. It was built in Nassereddin Shah (Qajar) period. During the reign of Nassereddin Shah, it was used for the safekeeping of gifts received from foreign countries. In Pahlavi period it was the venue of official parties and celebrations. Its interior has changed to a great extent and the summer chamber beneath it has been turned into an art gallery.
Between Brilliant Hall and the northeastern corner of Golestan Garden, there was once a citrus plantation that was demolished early during the reign of Reza Khan. In 1959, a new dormitory and administrative building were constructed on this site, for the visit to Iran by Queen Elizabeth (Two). Thereafter this building was used to accommodate visiting heads of states. The last time it was used as such, was in 1979 during the visit by Chinese Head of State.
Hall of Brilliant Diamonds (Imarat-i Brelian or Talar-i Brelian)
There are several spectacularly beautiful halls and rooms to the east of Ivory Hall. The floors of these rooms are lower than those of the other halls. At the time of Nassereddin Shah, most of the old buildings in Arg were destroyed and replaced. Crystal Building was replaced by the current “Brilliant Building”. During Pahlavi period, it was used for official meetings with Foreign Heads of States and Major ceremonies.
Wind Tower Building (Imarat-i Badgir)
Wind Tower Building sits on the southern wing of Golestan Garden. Built during the reign of Fath Ali Shah, it was dramatically modified at the time of Nassereddin Shah. Under the hall, there is a large summer chamber. Each corner bears a tall wind tower covered with blue, yellow and black glazed tiles and a golden cupola. The wind coming through these towers cools the summer chamber, hall, and rooms.
Among the most beautiful buildings of the complex is the Imarat-i Badgir, built by Fath Ali Shah in 1813. Remarkable for its tile-decorated wind catchers, the current Imarat-i Badgir is the result of Naser al-Din Shah’s major 1853 renovation and reconstruction. This building is comprised of a main talar and its adjoining rooms with four wind catchers at the corners of the building. The interior walls and ceiling of the building’s talar are decorated with mirror and tile work, glass and mirror paintings, and stucco carvings. The wind catchers are tiled in blue, yellow, and black. The Imarat-i Badgir also has a howz khaneh (pond house) in the basement, which worked with the four wind catchers to circulate and cool air by passing it over pools of water. The howz khaneh is now used as the Golestan Palace’s photo gallery (“aks khaneh”). Photos from the Qajar period, many were taken by Naser al-Din Shah himself, are presented in this photo gallery.
Tent-House (Chador Khaneh)
Chador-Khaneh, or tent house, is located between Wind Tower Building and Diamond Hall. It was the place where royal tents, used during the kings’ trips were stored. After restoration presently this building is used for holding a temporary exhibition or for a small gathering.
Reception Hall-Museum (Talar-i Salam)
Upon his return from Europe in 1869, after visiting several museum and art galleries, Nassereddin Shah decided to establish similar sites in his Arg. He had the exterior building destroyed and new ones built on the northwestern wing of Golestan Palace next to Ivory Hall. These buildings included Lobby, the Mirror Hall, and Museum Room. Construction of Museum Room began in 1870 and ended in 1873. However, it was not used until 1878, because of the multitude of ornaments to be completed.
This hall was intended to become a museum from the very beginning. Nevertheless, after the Peacock Throne was moved from the Mirror Hall to the museum, this hall became the venue of official court receptions and was thus named the Reception Hall. The most precious objects and works of art that were presented to the monarch of Persia, particularly the jewels, were kept in this hall.
In 1966, on the occasion of the Mohammad Reza Coronation, The decoration of this hall was modified to give it, its present shape.
Summer Chamber in the basement has been divided into two parts. The eastern part, called Special Hall, is dedicated to Qajar period fine arts. The western part, known as the Art Gallery, is the venue of an exhibition of Qajar period Persian paintings.
Rooms, themselves, with their high arches and ornate cravings and the numerous and large chandeliers are competitors for the eye of the beholder of the beauties that fill their spaces. Ceiling, floors, and banisters also catch the eye of the visitor.
Karim Khan Veranda (Khalvat-i Karim Khani)
In the Northeastern corner of the Golestan Palace, next to Reception Hall, there is a building with columns in the form of a veranda. At its center is a fountain, where water once flowed from a subterranean steam (Qanat).
Named after Karim Khan Zand, this building dates back to the Zand period. It was part of the interior of Karim Khan’s residence. The building is believed to have been constructed in 1759.
At the time of Nassereddin Shah, a major part of this building was destroyed, when the reception hall was being constructed.
Although little of its splendor and beauty remains the artists’ legacy can still be observed in the intricate work.
Diamond Hall (Talar-i Almas)
Diamond Hall is located on the southern wing of Golestan Palace, past the Wind Tower Building. It was constructed during the reign of Fath Ali Shah but its appearance and ornaments were modified at the time of Nassereddin Shah. It is called “Diamond Hall”, because of its glittering mirror works.
The Talar-i Almas, which dates back to Fath Ali Shah, takes its name from the extensive mirror work in its main hall. It is composed of this main hall, side rooms, corridors, and a second floor. Three sides of the main hall contain three small iwans; each is elevated and ornamented with mirror muqarnas and stucco carvings. The north side of the hall is decorated with large wooden lattice windows with colored glass known as Orosi.
White Palace (Kakh-i Ab’yaz )
Towards the end of the reign of Nassereddin Shah, the Ottoman Sultan Abdulhamid sent some precious gifts for the Shah of Iran. Whereas at that time almost all the royal palaces were decorated with various paintings and furniture, Shah decided to have a new palace constructed on the south-western wing of the Golestan area on the former site of the pavilion or Agha Mohammad Khan Tower to serve as a depository for the gifts.
The White building, with its 18th-century European style stucco, was named the White Palace for the color of the stucco and the white marble stones that covered its hall and staircase.
From the very beginning, White Palace became the Prime Minister’s Office. Until 1954 Cabinet Meeting was held in Sultan Abulhamid Hall of this Palace. In 1965, the western wing and the ground floor of this building were modified, to make it suitable for Coronation of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. This building became “Anthropology Museum” in 1968 and displays some of the most ancient artifacts to be found in Iran.
Shams al-Imarat (Shams-ol Emareh, or Sun Building)
This building is the most outstanding one in Golestan Palace and the finest on its eastern wing. Before his trip to Europe, Nassereddin Shah (that inspired by the pictures, he had seen of European Buildings) decided to construct a European Style Building in his Capital, so he could watch city’s panoramic view from its balcony.
The Shams al-Imarat, the tallest building in the Golestan Palace, was designed as a private residence by Moayer al-Mamaalek. Built by the architect Ustad Mohammad-Ali Kashi from 1865 to 1867, the building fuses Persian and European architecture into a five-story structure with two flanking towers topped with a turret. Between the two towers are two sets of rooms with a third clock tower centered above them. The building was used as the Shah’s observatory for viewing Tehran and its surroundings. The exterior of the building is decorated with polychrome tiles and arches and pierced by wooden lattice windows with colorful stained glass. On the first floor, the main talar of the building faces west to the garden. This talar and its adjoining rooms are decorated with mirror-work mosaics and carved stucco.
The Tekie-i Dowlat was the largest building in the Golestan Palace complex. Built between 1868 and 1873, it was demolished in 1946 by Reza Shah. This three-story theatrical building had a circular plan and measured 60 meters in diameter and 24 meters in height. There were three entrances to the building: the main entrance on the east for men, the women’s entrance on the west, and the Shah’s private entrance on the north, which was connected to the Golestan garden. Its half-sphere dome was supported by eight beams, which could be draped with a membrane to provide shade. Each floor of the building consisted of twenty rooms, each 7.5 meters wide. The building was used for ta’zieh theatrical plays during the festival of Ashura and other religious ceremonies.